New York Jets – Examining The Value Of Jamal Adams

Ben DiNapoli compares Jamal Adams’ 2017 season to other rookie safeties and breaks down what he needs to do to make a leap during his sophomore year…

Coming into the 2017 NFL draft, many pegged Jamal Adams as the most complete prospect available and someone who could step in immediately and be a difference maker. This led the Jets to selecting Adams with the #6 overall pick, ahead of quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes. Taking a look back at his rookie season, Adams flashed a lot of the potential that had scouts so excited in the first place.

He played in all 16 games and finished with 83 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 6 passes defended and 2 sacks. While those are some pretty impressive stats for a rookie, one of the biggest things that stands out about him is something you can’t see on paper: his leadership. From the first day he stepped on the field, Adams immediately became one of the team’s leaders. The defense follows him, whether it be through delegating assignments or breaking out dance moves during a time out.

This all led to Bleacher Report listing him as the 9th best Strong Safety in their NFL1000 rankings, the highest of any rookie. With that being said, let’s take a look at how some of Adams’s classmates fared in their rookie seasons:

Marcus Williams – New Orleans Saints

#11 in Bleacher Report’s Top Free Safeties of 2017

2017 Stats:

  • 15 games played
  • 73 tackles
  • 7 passes defended
  • 4 interceptions

The Saints drafted Marcus Williams early in the second round and his production last season definitely outweighed the draft cost. While many are quick to point out his mistake against Minnesota in the postseason, Williams, along with Marshon Lattimore, is one of the biggest reasons for the Saints’ defensive transformation. New Orleans often used him in center field because of his playmaking ability and ballhawk mentality. However, he was sometimes a bit shaky with tackling and when covering in the slot. If Williams continues to develop and cleans up a couple aspects of his game, he will be one of the best safeties in the league for years to come.

John Johnson – Los Angeles Rams

#10 in Bleacher Report’s Top Free Safeties of 2017

2017 Stats:

  • 16 games played
  • 75 tackles
  • 11 passes defended
  • 1 interception

John Johnson, along with Lamarcus Joyner, has given the Los Angeles Rams one of the best safety duos in the league. LA drafted Johnson in the 3rd round of the draft and thus far, have gotten a steal. He is Bleacher Report’s highest ranked rookie free safety in the site’s NFL1000 rankings and his play on the field was strong throughout the 2017 season. Two things that stick out about John Johnson are tackling and his ability to line up anywhere on the field. Although he is strong in many areas, it seems he was a little over aggressive at times and was slow to recover when there was a lapse in coverage. Those are things that will go away with more experience and practice.  Expect Johnson to play a huge role for a Rams’ defense that expects to be one of the league’s best.

Budda Baker – Arizona Cardinals

#11 in Bleacher Report’s Top Strong Safeties of 2017

2017 Stats:

  • 16 games played
  • 74 tackles
  • 7 passes defended
  • 2 forced fumbles
  • 1 sack

Budda Baker was drafted early in the second round by the Cardinals and was a very solid overall player for an Arizona defense that is consistently in the top half of the league. He didn’t become a starter until later in the season, but in addition to his strong play, Baker adds tremendous value on special teams as well; he made the Pro Bowl as a special teamer in 2017. Because of his size, Baker had trouble covering tight ends, but is a sure tackler and didn’t have an issue shedding blockers. If he continues to progress and bulks up a bit, Baker will be a force in a strong secondary.

Eddie Jackson – Chicago Bears

#19 in Bleacher Report’s Top Strong Safeties of 2017

2017 Stats:

  • 16 games played
  • 73 tackles
  • 11 passes defended
  • 1 interception

The Bears found quite a steal in the 4th round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Eddie Jackson developed into a key piece on the Chicago defense and was a dependable player in coverage throughout the season; Jackson has the ability to play both man and zone coverage. However, he needs to sure up his tackling and when watching him on tape, it seems like he is out of place at times in the open field. This is something that can be fixed and it’s likely Jackson will continue to remind teams of the mistake they made letting him slip until the 4th round.

From a stats perspective, Jamal Adams was comparable or better in most areas when compared to the top rookie safeties in the league. When compared to all safeties, Adams has incredible versatility, as he can line up in the box, as a linebacker or in coverage. Additionally, in 2017, something that stood out was his impact on the running game; it’s nearly impossible to watch a Jets game and not notice Adams’s pursuit and how he constantly was blowing up running lanes. However, the lack of turnovers forced by Adams is something that can be improved going forward. While it’s true that it’s a good sign if you don’t call a safety’s name often during the course of a game, the Jets need to create more turnovers on defense and Adams figures to be a big part of that.

He had 5 interceptions in college, so that’s not a huge part of his game, but with a player flying around the field as much as Adams, it’s likely the turnovers are not far behind. Additionally, in order to be considered amongst the truly elite safeties like Harrison Smith, Patrick Chung and Lamarcus Joyner, Adams needs to work on his coverage skills in 2018. A game that sticks out to me is in week 6 of 2017 against the Patriots when he gave up 2 touchdowns while covering Rob Gronkowski.

Now, covering Gronk is not an easy task, but Adams was in decent position both times but did not break up either pass. The good news for Jets fans is he has been working on things like his eye discipline in coverage, which should help him with reaction time and being in a better position to make plays. That will be something I’m keeping my eye on as the 2018 season progresses.

Already a critical piece to a young Jets defense, if Jamal Adams continues to make plays and cleans up his pass coverage skills, there is no reason he won’t be among the league’s elite safeties in 2018. After a strong rookie season, I fully expect Adams to take that next step and look forward to seeing his progression as a player in the upcoming season.

*All stats were taken from ESPN.com